The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has decided not to axe a 400-year-old Banyan tree as part of an upcoming highway project in Maharashtra's Sangli district, State Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray said on Saturday, July 25.
"The 400 year old banyan tree in Sangli district that we saved with a letter to @NHAI_Official. One can see the highway close to the tree. That, now will be realigned to save the tree. The tree is a keeper of legends, folklore and memories of many who played there as children," Thackeray tweeted.
The 400 year old banyan tree in Sangli district that we saved with a letter to @NHAI_Official . One can see the highway close to the tree. That, now will be realigned to save the tree. The tree is a keeper of legends, folklore and memories of many who played there as children. pic.twitter.com/e8AcIhZm8h— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 24, 2020
For the Ratnagiri-Solapur highway project, the NHAI had planned to axe the 400-year-old tree, whose canopy is spread over 400 sq mt, sparking protests from environmentalists and villagers. Activists had also gathered around the tree protests from environmentalists and villagers.
Through a group called Sahyadri Sanghatana, the residents had uploaded photos and videos of the tree on social media, in an attempt to show how wide the branches of the tree spread.
In a letter to Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on July 16, Thackeray had pointed out that the ancient tree, near a Yellamma Mandir, is part of the daily lives of locals and is home to many species of birds and animals.
"Due to the lockdown, we could not assemble in large numbers to protest. But, we decided to make all the efforts we could to save it. Initially, around 20 of us gathered as a form of Chipko movement while keeping social-distancing in mind. Then, we took to social media to talk about the tree and why it is important to save it," Dinesh Kadam, a resident of Bhose told The Indian Express.
The residents also created awareness through a group called warkaris.
"The warkaris walk or travel in groups to go to Pandharpur from various parts of the state every year. The tree with its vast expanse has been giving them shelter to rest for many years. Many groups assemble at a time under the tree which due to its dense foliage gives them a space to rest, eat before carrying on. We stopped vehicles of the pilgrims passing through the village and told them about our efforts. Some of them then posted photographs of their previous journeys where they took shelter under the tree, denoting how important it remains for all of us," Kadam said.